Is Returning to College a Good Financial Decision?

by Jessica Sommerfield · 0 comments

In the present economy, many people are rethinking their current careers (or lack of one). Nothing is more financially unsettling than being laid off from a long-term job and being forced back into the job market, especially when the job market has changed. One of the options, if you aren’t able to regain employment in your current or a similar field, is to return to college. With the multitude of colleges and universities offering online degrees and more job-specific training programs, it has never been a better time to go to the next level of your education or start an entirely new career. The following are some factors to consider when determining if going back to college is right for you.

Consider the future of your job and the potential for advancement. If you’re still employed, it’s tempting to feel indifferent to changes in the economy and job market because they haven’t affected you. However, going back to college before you are forced to find another job or career may be much easier to plan for, financially, and put more careful thought into. Look at the present state of your career field and ask these questions:

  • Is the need for it stable in the foreseeable future?
  • Is the demand for it growing?
  • Do advances in technology, science, or practice indicate you will need more education to be competitive in the job market?
  • Will your salary be sufficient and will you be able to receive raises and advance?

Consider how going back to college would affect your present career and finances.

If you’re currently unemployed, the answer is simple; but if your job is stable, considering the implications of temporarily quitting, dropping your hours, or seeking other work while you attend school can be scary. One of the advantages of going back to college is that more education rarely hurts your earning potential. Even if you aren’t able to get a job in exactly the field you studied for, any degree, especially a Bachelor’s or a Master’s, will automatically qualify you for a much higher caliber of jobs than minimal or no college education. However, if you’re not financially stable enough to handle tuition payments or more debt through student loans, you may need to wait until your financial situation improves.

Consider student loans. Although it’s always better to pay for college up-front through savings and earnings, student loans, if handled responsibly, can be a great tool in furthering your education. You won’t have to pay back federal student loans until you quit or complete your degree program. Although dropping everything to enroll in college full time can be financially scary, finishing your degree all at once before you are required to pay back your loans may be your best option. A less-than-ideal temporary job can provide sufficient income to get you through the transition.

“Pay As You Earn” Loans. Another concern is that you might not be able to find a job in your new career field right away, just when you are required to start repaying student loans. President Obama’s new program titled “Pay As You Earn” may be a way to handle this financial pressure. If you qualify, Pay As Your Earn loans require you to re-pay only up to 10% of your monthly income for up to 3 years. The program also includes debt forgiveness after 20 years.

Whatever your current career, considering further education in your field or another field is always a good decision, because more education almost always pays.

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